Welcome to Hot Pod, a newsletter about podcasts. This is issue 145, published January 2, 2018. Happy New Year everybody! Let’s, uh, see where this one goes. Digits to start the year. As always, we begin with the question: is the industry growing, and if so, how? Here are two numbers I’m using to keep track:
- Audience: 67 million U.S. monthly listeners, according to Edison and Triton Digital’s annual Infinite Dial report, which gives the industry its clearest number to beat. That’s up from 57 million in 2016, and if you want to go further back, up from 32 million in 2013, the year before the iOS 8 rollout and Serial.
- Advertising: The industry was projected to beat $220 in advertising revenue by the end of 2017, according to a mid-year IAB study that drew on data from 20 relatively big participating podcast publishers. (Which is to say, the number is best read as a floor.) That projection is up from the $119 million in ad revenue that those 20 publishers collectively posted in 2016. What’s significant about this information, compared to last year, is that we’re no longer depending on projections by Bridge Ratings, whose methodology remains opaque even if the industry did mildly coalesce around its predictions
- When will we see stronger pushes into podcasting from Apple’s platform competitors — specifically, Spotify, Pandora, and Google — and how will those efforts look?
- In early December, Digiday reported that some publishers have been running into speedbumps integrating dynamic ad insertion, leaving the podcast ad product “stubbornly old-fashioned” as a whole. Will publishers be able to carry the ball forward this year? And on a related note, we’re bound to see someone have a proper go at programmatic podcast advertising. How will this change the value narrative of podcast advertising?
- Despite Podtrac’s (hitherto sole) efforts at providing an industry ranker, I haven’t found it terribly useful when it comes to developing a greater sense of scale, order, and hierarchy in the podcast ecosystem. Will we see improvements to the system (the new “snackable” list is no step up)? And will we see more efforts at a reliable chart system from another source?
- Tons of shows are getting adaptation deals, and lots of folks want ’em. Who’s next?
- Keeping a close eye on this Midroll–Marvel Wolverine fiction podcast project. (Brendan Baker is directing!) It’s an intriguing arrangement, and we’ll see if adaptations in the other direction pay off proportionally.
- And while we’re on the subject of shows, it looks like we’re kicking off the year with Atlanta Monster, the true crime collaboration between Tenderfoot (Up and Vanished) and HowStuffWorks.
- As always, what’s the next big thing — show, company, technology — going to be?
- Nintendo relaunches its beloved Nintendo Power magazine as a podcast. There’s a pretty good discussion on the significance and history of the magazine — a triumph of what is now known as “content marketing” — in this Complex article, along with Blake J. Harris’s book The Console Wars, a relevant excerpt of which you can find in this archived Grantland post.
- Netflix releases a companion podcast to Wormwood, its original six-part documentary series from Errol Morris, with the involvement of Pineapple Street. This is the latest in a growing genre of officially sanctioned companion TV podcasts, and it’s not the first such Netflix project: Previously, the streaming service partnered with Panoply Custom for a podcast companion to Making a Murderer.
- Israel Smith, NPR’s director of programming, is moving to WBEZ to serve as the Chicago public radio station’s managing director of programming and audience development. Smith joined NPR in 2012.
- Planet Money’s recently launched spinoff, The Indicator, is shifting toward a daily production schedule starting today.
- Mary Louise Kelly is succeeding Robert Siegel as host of the public radio mothership’s flagship program All Things Considered, starting January 17. Kelly was recently in the spotlight for being the reporter who grilled NPR CEO Jarl Mohn on-air after the sexual harassment allegations against then-VP of News Michael Oreskes.
- On a related note, Kelly McEvers, who was a cohost on All Things Considered, is stepping from that position to focus more on her investigative podcast series, Embedded. More on that next week.
- Jarl Mohn, who went on medical leave shortly after the Oreskes allegations first broke, is set to return to work sometime mid-month, according to Brian Stelter’s Reliable Sources newsletter. COO Loren Mayor had been handling his duties.
Reggie Ossé’s The Combat Jack Show was the first great hip-hop podcast. To borrow from the critic Dave Marsh’s description of the Rolling Stones as the greatest rock group of all time, “This is not legend. It is fact.” Reggie came to podcasting in middle age, having walked away from a successful and groundbreaking career as an attorney representing rappers and hip-hop producers. Burnt out by the backbiting and egos of the music business, he’d reinvented himself as a content creator, first as a blogger, and then later as a podcaster, under the nom de plume Combat Jack. Reggie began The Combat Jack Show in 2010, a time when the “powers that be” in hip-hop views on podcasts ran from indifference to disdain. Podcasts were only for white people. Or aspiring radio hosts who weren’t “good enough” to make it on terrestrial. Podcasts would never resonate with a hip-hop audience. Reggie shattered those myths and out of their shards built a brilliant mosaic of hip-hop history lessons, barbershop banter, intellectual jousting, black nationalism, and on-air therapy. In theory the episodes were centered around interviews with hip-hop personalities, but the stories from Reggie’s own eventful life were what always made them so riveting and relatable. Reggie had grown up in Crown Heights in the 70s, studied fine arts at Cornell University, graduated from Georgetown Law, danced the night away on acid-laced punch at the Paradise Garage, befriended Keith Haring, made a cameo in an iconic hip-hop video while working at Def Jam (that’s him at the 3:29 mark of the “Gas Face” video) , shopped Jay-Z’s first record deal, ran with Puffy during the latter’s hedonistic heyday, and raised four beautiful children. It seemed he had experienced it all. He could talk about almost anything with almost anyone. In the studio, Reggie created an atmosphere of trust, authenticity, empathy, and humor that would often force normally reticent rappers to drop their masks and reveal a bit of their true selves. As an interviewer, Reggie was equal to a Marc Maron or Barbara Walters, while remaining 100 percent black and all the way hip-hop. Take his legendary episode with the hip-hop entrepreneur Dame Dash. Even if you’re not a hip-hop fan, it’s a riveting interview. After it dropped, there were several TV platforms furious Dame hadn’t given them the interview instead. But if he had, it just wouldn’t have been the same. Only Combat Jack could have gotten that interview from Dame. And only on a podcast. As Questlove wrote after Reggie’s passing, “Dude. #CombatJack’s Dame Dash vs Just Blaze episodes was a game changer for me…..Ive NEVER religiously listened to a podcast before….Seriously it’s like when you hear an MC and that inspires you to be one. That’s what his show meant to me.” Reggie was indeed a game changer. In 2012, he and I founded the Loud Speakers Podcast Network, with the hopes of bringing new voices, especially those of people of color, to the podcastsphere. Reggie’s example would help pave the way for successful Loud Speakers shows like The Read, Friend Zone, The Brilliant Idiots, and Tax Season, which in turn would further open up podcasting to new hosts, audiences and possibilities. As more and more podcasters began riding the wave Reggie created, he shifted gears for a final time. The Combat Jack Show was raw and unpredictable, but Mogul, the award-winning podcast he did in collaboration with Gimlet, showed he was just as comfortable — and potent — in a scripted environment. There’s no doubt in the coming years that Mogul will be credited with having ushered in a second, more polished, wave of hip-hop podcasting. Mogul made several Best of 2017 lists, including The New Yorker’s, Entertainment Weekly’s, and The Atlantic’s. By the time they were released, Reggie was already deep in the midst of his short but courageous battle with stage 4 colon cancer. Celebration was impossible. But even in the midst of so much pain, I’m sure Reggie loved that the world was starting to recognize what I’d already known for a while: Reggie Ossé was a giant of podcasting. More than audience size, accolades, or even money, Reggie’s goal in podcasting was always to advance hip-hop. To, as he loved to say, “raise the bar” of a culture he’d grown up in and championed into middle age. Reggie’s death is still too raw to try to put in any sort of perspective. I’m heartbroken I won’t be able to hear the projects he had planned next. But I’m comforted that I, as well as the legion of fans he left behind, will be able to experience his warmth, wisdom, humor and passion for life in the work he left behind.Last month also saw the loss of the Australian producer Jesse Cox, who died from a rare cancer. Cox spent four years as a staffer at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, where he hosted Radiotonic, cohosted Long Story Short, and created This is About. A winner of the silver prize at the Third Coast Festival in 2014, he had recently moved to Audible’s Australian branch, where he served as head of content. Career Spotlight. To kick off the new year, this week’s interview features Andrew Mambo, who works on one of my favorite new shows, ESPN’s 30 for 30 podcast.
Tell me about your current situation. I’m a producer/reporter for ESPN’s 30 for 30 podcast, where I work with a talented team to tell great stories that happen to be about sports. We launched the podcast in the summer of 2017 and just wrapped up our second season a few weeks ago, where I oversaw production on two episodes: No Rules: The Birth of UFC and Madden’s Game. And in our first season I reported on two really amazing stories: The Fighter Inside and The Trials of Dan and Dave. So now I’m working on a couple stories for future seasons of the podcast. My day to day is focussed on research but soon I’ll be going back into interviewing and cutting tape. I can’t say much about the stories I’m working on but I can say I’m ‘pumped’ about what we have coming up (that might make more sense toward the fall of 2018 or maybe not and it’s a bad pun about what I’m working on). How did you get to this point? What does your career arc thus far look like? I fell in love with radio and storytelling while at college in Montreal, first on campus stations and then at various local stations, but it was all on a volunteer basis. I never really thought working in radio was something I could make a career out of. But when I finished my masters in the UK, I landed a reporting gig at 1Xtra, a BBC digital radio station. I still remember how elated I was when I got that first paycheck. I was getting paid to do something I had loved doing for years for free and it made me realize that my work had value. Long story short, I had to return to Canada and after a few months I took a detour and went to Zambia for a year to volunteer doing HIV/AIDS prevention education for young people. But that volunteer gig turned into six years living in four different countries in Sub-Saharan Africa working for the United Nations. While most of my work with the UN was focussed on program management, I figured out ways to bring my photography and writing skills into my daily job to tell the stories of the young people who were benefitting from the projects we worked on. While overseas, I met my eventual wife and when she got a job in New York I followed her there and did some consultancy work with the UN. I was getting more into doing photography and that led to another change when an opportunity came up to work on a documentary film about the Battle of Gettysburg, aptly titled The Gettysburg Story. As with most documentary films, it was a small crew, so I got a chance to do almost everything at one point or another. While I was working on the film I was keeping an eye out for other opportunities and got connected with Radio Rookies at WNYC, who do incredible work helping young people report stories that are important to them. I was a big fan of their work and when an opportunity came up I started out as a freelancer and then got a full-time position. My colleagues were amazing to work with and I learned a lot from them, but I also learned plenty from the young people we worked with, mainly about patience, building trust, and Snapchat filters. Sports has always been something I’m passionate about and I’m a big fan of the 30 for 30 films, so when an opportunity came around to be part of the team that was starting up a 30 for 30 podcast, I met with Jody Avirgan, the podcast’s host and senior producer, and was excited to be a part of it. The past year has been an amazing ride. We’re thrilled with the response to the podcast so far, and with two seasons already under our belt, I’m excited about what we have coming up. What does a career mean to you, at this point? At this point I’ve been on such a meandering road that I don’t tend to think of myself as having a career in any traditional sense where you specialize in one field and make that your life’s work. I really enjoy storytelling, both as a consumer and creator, so I hope that I can continue to do that as long as possible, but that can take many different forms. When you started out, what did you think wanted to do? I knew I wanted to tell stories, but I didn’t think anyone would pay me to do it, so for awhile I was actually thinking I would be a civil servant or teacher. I mean, I always thought I would be doing storytelling in either radio or film, but I just thought I would be doing it on the side for fun.Have a great start to the year, everybody. Drive safe now.